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8 ASU undergrads headed to DC for Smithsonian's Latino Museum Studies Program

Thanks to a new partnership between Arizona State University and the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies Program, museum studies major Ruby Maderafont will spend the first 10 weeks of their junior year in Washington, D.C., helping to develop digital experiences for all for the National Museum of the American Latino.

Ivan Mendoza, who graduated from ASU in May 2022 with a degree in digital culture, will be working at the National Air and Space Museum on “Estrellas y Cuentos: A Latinofuturism Oral History Project.”

Maderafont, a student in Barrett, The Honors College who plans to work as a curator after college, said that most of what they’ve learned so far about museum operations and how Latino representation is addressed in museum spaces is “from an outside view, as a visitor and as a student reading scholarly articles in my coursework.”

The opportunity to gain hands-on, intensive experience with the museum studies program will “propel my career in the museum field and simply be a dream come true,” they said. 

Maderafont is one of eight Herberger Institute undergrads who will spend 10 weeks in Washington, D.C., this fall working with the Smithsonian as part of a group of 20 interns from Hispanic-Serving Institutions around the country participating in the Latino Museum Studies Program Undergraduate Internship. (ASU was officially designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution in June.)

The program is an extension of the Smithsonian’s long-standing Latino Museum Studies Program for graduate students, which was established in 1994. 

The 20 undergrads will begin their internship together, as a cohort, on Sept. 6. The National Museum of the American Latino is providing them with travel, accommodations and a living-wage stipend. 

“We are really excited that this is working out as a cohort model and the students are arriving together,” said Robin Morey, program coordinator for the Latino Museum Studies Program Undergraduate Internship. “They’ll be living together, so they’ll get a chance to know each other and get to know students from Hispanic-Serving Institutions across the country. The first two weeks the students are all together with program staff, doing workshops and tours, so they’ll get a sense of all the work across the institution, all the different museums and offices the Smithsonian has and its purview.”

During the second part of the internship, which lasts the remaining eight weeks, each student will work on an individual practicum with one of the Smithsonian’s museums or offices.

Morey said that the ASU students in the new cohort bring perspectives, skills and training to the program that are particularly of use to the Smithsonian.

“We have four main tracks within this internship: conservation, museum education, digital culture and exhibition design,” Morey said. “Most of the Herberger Institute students are going to work in exhibition design and digital culture practicums. We’re very excited that the students are coming in with such expertise because of their training at the Herberger Institute.”

Beatriz Rivera, a senior in interior design, will be working at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on a 3D exhibition design project.

“Not many designers have the opportunity to embrace their own customs and past through design,” Rivera said. “Having a better perspective into my own heritage is an aspect of this experience that excites me.”

Viviana Moreno, also a senior in interior design, will undertake her practicum at the National Museum of American History, working on an exhibition titled “Mirror, Mirror for Us All? Disney Parks and Stories of America.”

And Ivan Mendoza, who graduated in May 2022 with a degree in digital culture, will be working at the National Air and Space Museum on “Estrellas y Cuentos: A Latinofuturism Oral History Project.”

“What I hope to contribute to the internship is first-hand knowledge of growing up with immigrant parents, living in non-ideal, dangerous, low-income neighborhoods, and being at a disadvantage not to succeed but being fortunate to get opportunities to acquire skills that can further a successful career in something I love, like art,” Mendoza said.

“I'd also like to contribute my knowledge of digital and physical systems, and my skills in programming and designing interactive environments/installations. I feel like this is important to me, as I'd like mentorship on bridging the two sides of my Chicano Mexican American heritage and my creative tech/art practices so as to be more representative of what the new generation of Mexican American artists is.” 

Morey, the coordinator of the undergraduate program, said that after the internship is over, the new interns will become part of a growing alumni network. In addition to Maderafont, Rivera, Moreno and Mendoza, the interns from ASU are Francesca Galvan, Dani Pogue, Camilla Rojas and Chalsea Segarra.

“I’m an alumni of the grad program,” Morey said, “which the undergraduate program is based on. I’m personally in touch with a lot of the people from my cohort. We offer alumni activities, networking activities, professional development opportunities, things like that. We’ll begin to loop in these undergraduate interns.” 

“It is imperative that we help expand the pipeline of Latinx museum professionals who are passionate about the presentation and preservation of culture and history through the lens of their own lived experiences and community,” said Marcos Voss, who serves as the program lead for ASU. “The Herberger Institute’s partnership with the Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies Program and the National Museum of the American Latino ensures viable career pathways for our Latinx students to have a voice and seat at the table, bringing with them a unique connection to justice, equity and decolonization that will help shape the museums of the future.”

deborah.sussman@asu.edu